A question was posted on the emlibs list (Emlibs@listserv.miamioh.edu) recently asking how to persuade faculty and administrators that embedded librarian involvement in online classes is “important and effective.”
It’s a good question — but it may not be the right question. Instead of adopting the idea that we are going to “convince” or “persuade”, I advocate taking a more consultative approach. (See my post from July 3, 2014, “Selling and Embedded Librarians”.) Here are a few key points that I would emphasize:
1. Don’t over-sell. There’s no guarantee that librarian involvement will be “important and effective.” It depends on what the nature of the involvement is, the instructional skills of the librarian, the level of collaboration and integration of information skills into the course learning goals and assignments.
2. Start by understanding the audience. What are their perceptions and pain points? Is the term “information literacy” familiar to the audience? Should another term be used? Is it viewed favorably — is there a history (positive or negative) of discussion and implementation of efforts to improve student information skills? Has the institution established learning outcomes that include some form of information skills? Are there faculty who already perceive a problem with student achievement, or is this not on anyone’s radar? And what’s the attitude towards the library? Are librarians seen as credible academic partners, or as second-class support staff? Pushing a message without understanding the audience is a high-risk adventure.
3. Know what you want to accomplish , specifically. “Embedded librarianship” is not specific enough as a goal, and you will need various forms of collaboration and support depending on what the desired outcome is. Do you need to start by establishing program learning objectives? Or by identifying key courses where an embedded librarian would have a lot to contribute to course goals? Or do you already have a list of courses that would be appropriate?
4. Know what you will need from your audience as well. Remember that embedded librarianship is a partnership and that means resources, time, and commitment from all involved. Don’t pretend that it’s cost-free to the faculty. Rather, it’s worth the cost if done well.
5. Examples — models — help a lot. The best ones are from your own institution — which is one of the reasons why I recommend pilot projects. There are many in the literature as well, including a number in my book “The Embedded Librarian” and my report (see addendum and appendices) on the SLA.org website, also the books edited by Cass Kvenild and Kaijsa Calkins; and by Elizabeth Leonard and Erin McCaffrey.
Fundamentally, all this goes back to assessing readiness (as a library and as a university) and knowing where you are. You can’t map your route until you know both your destination and your starting point.